Charles Taylor in his book “A Secular Age” may have insights into the “Nones”, the “unaffiliated population” described in surveys who have left their religious traditions “because they stopped believing in its teachings.” Their numbers are increasing the surveys say.
Some become unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions. Many leave a religion because “they think of religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules or because religious leaders are too focused on power and money.”
It’s interesting to see that “ far fewer say they became unaffiliated because they believe that modern science proves that religion is just superstition.”
Taylor says the theory that religion will disappear as science advances doesn’t hold up because there’s a search for “human fullness” for a “higher world” that doesn’t go away. Surveys indicate that’s the case among the unaffiliated today
But Taylor also recognizes that people find religions difficult today. In the western world, our secular age is an age of “expressive individualism;” people want reasons to believe and belong. They need religious places that meet them as they are. They’re looking for religious experience.
“Those who believe in the God of Abraham should normally be reminded of how little they know him, how partial is their grasp of him. They have a long way to go…Many believers (the fanatics, but also more than these) rest in the certainty that they have got God right (as against all those heretics and pagans in the outer darkness). They are clutching onto an idol, to use a term familiar to the traditions of the God of Abraham.” (p.769)
Churches need to engage the world with reasons, not with condemnations. Belief leads us to the mysterious Unknown, not sharp certainties. Jesus surely kept speaking to Nicodemus many nights. As the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus says, it takes time to believe. We’re slow learners. We pray that on their journey the “Nones” will find him “in the breaking of the bread.”